Parents Evening for Art was always the same: Elliot tries hard but cannot seem to communicate this in her final piece. In fact, the relief was almost audible when I said I would not be taking Art G.C.S.E. I would never have described myself as arty, let alone creative.
So when my therapist suggested writing therapy, I was sceptical. How would keeping a diary help? I started, if only to say ‘I told you so’ when it did not work. And yet, as I wrote, I found myself addressing emotions and events in my life I had ignored or denied for years. I could finally keep track of my mood and review my progress as the months wore on. It also has helped to read my last diary entry just before a therapy session to focus on what has been on my mind that week.
Then I discovered poetry. A new world opened up to me. The brilliant thing about poetry is you do not have to be William Blake for it to help you. It is a snapshot of your thoughts at a particular time. Free verse, haiku, gazhal – it is up to you how you express yourself best. Above all, it is therapeutic to write it out. In addition, you will discover a new community of mental health poets. Ready to inspire and comfort you in equal measure. Anyone is welcome in this community.
As a student, we are used to writing for an academic end. Essays, lab reports, assignments. Rarely, however, do we write for the sake of writing. When we do write with no academic goal or deadline, we can unearth what our subconscious is really thinking. Spare time when you are a student is highly valued, but writing to help with recovery need not take up a lot of time. There are small exercises you can try, which might make a big difference to your mental wellbeing.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Write out a list of emotions you feel. You could even generate a word cloud using an online tool here.
- If you suffer from psychosis, try writing out what the voices are saying
- Write a letter to someone who has caused you distress in your life explaining how they have made you feel (although you do not have to send it!)
- Keep a diary, maybe start by writing one sentence a day of how you feel
- Write a short story based on your experiences
- Compose a poem in whatever form you like – feel free to express yourself!
When my mental health is poor, I feel like my mind is filled with dark clouds. Writing is the rain. It is an active process of reducing the size of the clouds, and getting rid of some of them entirely. No matter whether you are the next Shakespeare or you are not creative at all, I hope you will join me in writing to recovery.